SUTTON UNITED – 0
EASTLEIGH – 0
Strange how things come full circle eh?
Back in September we went down to Eastleigh with 2 points to our name and expecting nothing other than a fucking good hiding. Somehow though, we managed to survive a utterly crap 1st half to lead at the break and incredibly come away with all 3 points after a 2-1 win.
Naturally, that raised hopes of a recovery and that we could put our awful start behind us.
Stupid stupid us.
It then took us until the dying embers of 2007 to record our second win of the season and left all concerned in no doubt that we are royally in the shite. So, you’ll be unsurprised to hear that despite the recent win over Thurrock, we’re expecting nothing other than a fucking good hiding from Eastleigh this afternoon.
Somewhat unentrhalled by the prospect of a good thumping, I’m surprised at how early I manage to haul my cynical carcass out of bed and head into Sutton. Bored, I hit the bar early and find Gareth already supping a pint. And he’s of an equally cheerful and sunny disposition.
In fact, come to think of it, I’m actually quite surprised Mr Miller has made it this far through the season without topping himself. Especially when you take into account his almost suicidal looking 2 hour chain smoking sulk out in the carpark following the 3-0 drubbing at Weston in August!
I guess he must have gone to the docs and got some pretty hefty anti-depressants. If he has, he’s a total bastard for not sharing ’em around on Saturday’s.
The bar slowly fills as locals and the travelling support filters in, including a bunch of Eastleigh fans who apparently have chosen today’s game as their traditional one away game of the season. I wonder why that is eh? They also have with them a life size cardboard cut out of some unidentified blonde woman. The signifcance of which I fail to obtain before I sup up and head out into the chilly february afternoon to prepare for a massacre.
Our side is subject to a couple of changes this afternoon. With Kez on loan from todays oppo, he’s not allowed to play against them and he is relegated to the stands. Tom Hughes steps in to partner Scoobs at the back. In midfield, Paul Honey’s foot injury has finally got the better of him and he is replaced by Jason Goodchild. Also, after his piss poor showing on tuesday night, Rob Hughes has been dumped to the bench with Nick Greene starting on the left of midfield instead. Alarmingly though, Phil Wilson is away in the US on family business and Kevin Davies gets his first start. The switching around does little to boost confidence.
Given their league position, it’s hardly surprising that the visitors start brightly. Only a few seconds in a dangerous looking ball in from the left causes problems and has to be lamped clear. Several minutes in and Davies is called into action seriously for the first time, a low ball in from the right finds a man in the centre just enough ahead of his marker to clip an effort on goal with a neat half volley. But the Saffa stopper manages to get up and flick the ball over the bar with an outstretched hand.
It seems we are indeed in for a long afternoon, but a couple of minutes later, a trademark Dundas run on the left sparks us into life a bit. His run and cross is just cut out in the box, but the resulting throw finds Greene and his dart across the edge of the box results in a shot high & wide of the target. It’s not much admittedly, but it’s a start!
The visitors seem to be adopting a rather high line and this appears to suit us. On 12 minutes, again Dundas bursts through, this time in the centre before being forced left and once more, some timely defending means his low centre is cut out before it can reach Steffan or Harry.
Suddenly and somewhat unexpectedly, we find ourselves in a game.
Dundas again bursts clear in the centre and lays the ball out right for Ball up in support. The pass is a little heavy and Steff has his work cut out to reach it before it runs out of play. But reach it he does and manages to pull it back perfectly into the heart of the penalty area. But for some reason, Craig hasn’t carried on his run and there’s no one there to meet the ball. The big man almost makes up for this after 32 minutes when he plays a 1-2 down the right with Ottaway and finds himself clear of the defence. He slides his effort under the ‘keeper, only to see it bobble back off the inside of the far post and back into the arms of the grateful custodian. Arse.
The let off seems to saprk the very lethargic visitors into a bit of life and a couple of minutes later, a cross in from the right tempts Davies off his line, but with a crowd in front of him, he gets nowhere near it and the ball dropping in the box causes a brief scramble during which the ‘keeper again fails to gather the ball before it falls handily for an attacker who wastes a good sight of the target by blazing his shot well over the target.
Davies is in action on 41 minutes, diving to his right to gather a diving header from a lowish cross in from the left, but it’s the U’s who have the last word 2 minutes later. Ball hassles a defender out of the ball in the centre and feeds Dundas on the left. His run ends with the ball pulled back to the edge of the 18 yard box that Goodchild rifles just a couple of inches over the bar.
Half time arrives and we’re not getting gubbed! My word, thats somewhat unexpected…..
The usual tea and pie ritual helps pass the time until the restart and this time, we’re once again carrying those foolish hopes of a somewhat unexpected result.
We start the brighter and a few minutes in, a break down the left leaves Greene in loads of space and Yellow shirts outnumbering the defenders inside. All he needs to do is feed a ball across for Ball and it’s got to be 1-0, but instead he scuffs a terrible ball into the middle that is too close to the ‘keeper and he smothers it at the feet of Ball arriving in the centre. Rubbish.
Nicky endears himself further a couple of minutes later by blindly flicking a ball on into space behind the defence, allowing an attacker to chase in. Fortunately, the error isn’t punished and their man loops a dipping shot just wiode of the target.
More persistance from Dundas wins a corner shortly before the hour, although it really should be a free-kick. Green atones for the earlier mistakes by swinging the ball over for Tom Hughes to rise highest at the far post and head narrowly over the bar. We keep pressing, looking for that desperately needed goal and Ball is involved again on 67 minutes, breaking in behind the high Eastleigh line in the centre. He feeds the ball out to Ottaway on the right and he flings a cross into the box. Alimi wins the header and it drops for Goodchild on the edge of the box. But his shot on the turn is just shoveled away to safety round the near post by the keeper.
Shortly after, Dundas heads a right sided free-kick over the bar at full stretch before the visitors finally step up the gear we’ve been waiting for them to find and start to look threatening in the last 10 minutes or so.
Davies is called into action when a corner from the right isn’t cleared and he has to beat away a fierce angled drive aimed towards his near post. Then our nerves aren’t helped by Scooby giving away two silly fouls deep in our half on the right. The first comes to nothing, but the second is nodded down in the heart of the box and as a late winner looks certain, Scarbs atones for his misdemeanor by diving in desperately to make a superb saving tackle as the attacker pulls the trigger.
To our relief, we manage to hold out for the last couple of minutes and the final whistle brings mixed emotions. Firstly relief that a valuable point has been earned, but also no little frustration that we’ve failed to take all 3 points that were just there for the taking from a game we expected nothing from.
Back in the bar, we find that results have once more gone our way and the bottom 3 has closed up even more. Our point and Dorch’s puts us on 19, with St Albans defeat bringing them to within a point of ourselves and the Dorset mob. 4th bottom Welling have also lost, meaning they’re now just 3 points away.
Cursing what might have been, we settle in to watch Man Utd give the Gooners a jolly good thrashing before heading down to the Hood for the customary food and “we’re not going anywhere else” session until closing time. Here, thoughts turn to next weeks huge 6 pointer in Dorset with Dorch.
I think I might get arseholed for that one. Too much stress otherwise.
MoM : Jason Goodchild. Very good all action performance.
TEAM : Davies, Sammut, Bray, Scarborough, T.Hughes, Alimi, Goodchild, Ball, Dundas, Ottaway, Greene SUBS : Opara, Wright, Horne, R.Hughes, McLoughlin